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The Arbra Sacra on the Banks of Lake Nemi (Study of an Ancient Tree)
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
The Arbra Sacra on the Banks of Lake Nemi (Study of an Ancient Tree)
c.1754 (undated)
Black chalk with white chalk on blued-white, medium, slightly textured, laid paper
389 x 560 mm
15 5/16 x 22 1/16 in.
New York and London 1972 (26); New Haven, English Landscape, 1977 (18); Munich 1979-80 (104); London, Cardiff and New Haven, 1982-83 (52); Yale Center for British Art,Sandby, 1985 (15); New Haven 2001 (99); Cardiff, Manchester and London 2003-4 (19); New Haven and London 2007-8 (21); Tercentenary 2014 (135)
Paul Sandby; Christie's, 3 May 1811 (101 - One ditto [original drawing/sketch], an elaborate and faithful study, a portrait of the Arbra Santa, on the borders of the Lake of Nemi), bt Callen [=Callender?] (£30); [...] George Guy Greville, 4th Earl of Warwick; Mrs Arthur Clifton; Agnew, 1964; bt Paul Mellon, 1964
Unsigned; no inscription
[1] Stamp lower right: Paul Sandby (Lugt 2112)
[2] Stamp lower right: Earl of Warwick (Lugt 2600)
[1] Graphite, lower right: RICHARD WILSON: ANCIENT TREE
The 'sacred tree', correctly designated 'arbor sancta', was presumably so named after the sacred tree in the grove of the goddess Diana at Lake Nemi.
The size and sensitivity of this presentation drawing demonstrate Wilson's developing skills as a draughtsman, perfected during his stay in Italy. His pupil,Thomas Jones, recorded in his diary on 30 April 1777, 'All went to make sketches about the Lake of Nemi - particularly a large Plane tree on the Edge of the Water call'd the Arbor Santa [sic] which has a hollow within ... I was told here that my Old Master Willson when in this Country made use of it as a Study to Paint in.'
Object ID: 14279
Jones 1803, p. 58; New Haven, English Landscape, 1977, p. 13, pl. LV; Solkin, 1982, pp. 172-74; Sumner & Smith 2003, p. 129 repr.; Baskett 2007, p. 251, no. 21, pl. 21; Wilson and Europe 2014, pp. 310-11